by Hope Rehab Team
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Can Teach Us How to Cope Better with Life
Addiction problems tend to go hand in hand with poor coping strategies. If we find life overly challenging, we are then more likely to be drawn to substance abuse and other maladaptive behaviors.
Pinning our hopes on life giving us a smoother ride in the future will most likely lead to disappointment. Life is what is, and it is unrealistic to expect things to always go our way. Things can only really change for us when we move our focus from avoiding these challenges to improving our coping skills. It is by being able to handle anything that life throws our way that we can find lasting peace and contentment.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is an approach that can significantly improve our ability to cope with life. It teaches a number of core tools that we can use when faced with challenges.
What is DBT?
DBT is a combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), psychotherapy (talk therapy), and mindfulness. The word ‘dialectical’ means the interaction between two opposing forces which in this case would be change and acceptance. This approach has been around since the 1980s when it was introduced by a psychologist called Dr. Marsha Linehan and her team. DBT focuses on a number of areas including :
Mindfulness – is the ability to pay attention to what is happening right now in a less judgmental way. This skill can help us in all areas of our DBT work.
Distress tolerance – this teaches us to accept ourselves and the situation we are dealing with. This is important because it is usually our resistance to reality that is the problem rather than reality itself.
Emotion regulation – this means improving our ability to identify and regulate our emotions.
Interpersonal effectiveness – is where we become better at interacting with other people so we become better at dealing with conflict and getting our needs met.
What is the Difference Between DBT and CBT?
DBT was developed in response to perceived weaknesses in the CBT approach when it came to the needs of certain clients. There are other forms of CBT that also make use of mindfulness (e.g. mindfulness-based cognitive therapy) , so what is so special about DBT? One of the key differences between CBT and DBT is that the latter focuses more on social interactions. There is also a stronger focus on emotion regulation.
What is the Difference Between DBT and Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the ability to perceive what is going on right now without becoming lost in our internal description of what is going on. We are always making judgements about whatever situation we find ourselves in, and it is often these judgements rather than the situation that is the problem.
Being ‘mindful’ is a normal human ability, but it has been developed over the centuries within Buddhism as a means to gain insight and liberation. In DBT we use mindfulness as a tool to help us better deal with life rather than in any religious context.
Can DBT be useful for people with addiction problems?
DBT can absolutely be helpful for those of us dealing with addiction problems. It is often our difficulties coping with life that draw us to alcohol and other drugs in the first place. For example, alcohol can make social interactions appear to go a lot more smoothly (although as addiction takes hold, it starts to destroy our relationships). Unless we find a better way of handling the challenges of being alive, we will continue to try to escape it through substance abuse or other maladaptive behaviors.
DBT may be a particularly good fit for followers of the 12-step approach because it provides tools that help turn the aspiration of the serenity prayer (God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.) into a reality.
Some of the ways DBT can benefit people who are trying to build a new life in recovery would include:
It may improve our ability to handle life.
It can teach us to accept that which cannot be changed.
It can make us more effective at pursuing and achieving our goals.
It provides tools for handling change.
It can teach us how to better recognize and regulate our emotions.
We can become better at receiving criticism.
It may improve our interpersonal relationships.
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